TV Guide sleuth Michael Ausiello was on hand at the Gossip Girl panel at Paley Fest '08, in which the entire Gossip Girl cast, plus author Cecily von Ziegesar, executive producers Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage and Bob Levy, and Entertainment Weekly's Tim Stack were all on hand.
Here are his highlights from the event, which was chock full of Gossip Girl news, spoilers and, well, gossip. Take it away, Michael ...
Shhhhh: In lieu of an episode, Schwartz introduced an extended clipathon of Season One so far, plus a bonus outtake reel. Throughout the clip package, there was an inordinate amount of whispering and giggling coming from the row behind me. Turns out, the entire cast had snuck in after the lights dimmed, and Chace Crawford, Penn Badgley, Leighton Meester and Blake Lively were right behind me!
They really are BFFs: Right before they were brought up on stage, I observed Meester and Lively frantically (and giddily) touching up each other's makeup. And at that precise moment, all was right in my world.
The other GG: There were some Gilmore Girls fans on hand. I know this because when Matthew Settle (Rufus Humphrey) mentioned that his wife was a fan, a mini riot erupted in the mezzanine.
Hair today, gone tomorrow: True blonde Leighton Meester wore a brown wig when she auditioned for Blair. Once it became clear that she was going to get the part, producers asked her to lose the wig and dye her mane instead.
Moving on a budget: Settle revealed that the CW gave the cast each $6K to relocate to New York, which he joked is about enough to cover the rent on a bathroom.
Class act: Kelly Rutherford shared a story about the scary lengths to which some paparazzi will go to snap pics of the cast that only made me love her more. Recalling a recent incident in which a photographer nearly got run over by a cab while trying to take her picture, she remembered telling him, "Please ... I'm the mom. [Blake Lively] is coming in a minute."
Good timing: Jessica Szohr landed the role of Vanessa simply by crashing a barbeque Schwartz hosted. Schwartz recalled opening his door, seeing Szohr for the first time and shouting, "It's Vanessa!" Something tells me Schwartz's next barbecue is going to be teeming with uninvited aspiring actresses.
Speaking of Vanessa: Savage noted that she's looking to "carve out more real estate" for Jessica Szohr on Gossip Girl so that she's "not just part of Serena and Dan's story."
Gossip loses a girl: Blair will be down one sidekick when the show returns next month. Schwartz revealed that Nan Zhang (Kati) enrolled at Brown University during the strike — and didn't even bother to tell anyone at the show! As a result, Nicole Fiscella (Isabel) will lead Blair's minion march alone.
Animal antics: There was lots of discussion about how, in the Gossip Girl books, Chuck was gay and had a pet monkey. Said discussion ended with someone on the panel (I forget who) concluding that the "monkey turned him gay."
She's obsessed: Serena and Vanessa's Guitar Hero showdown earlier this season was supposed to have a different outcome. In the original script, Vanessa prevailed. However, Blake Lively — a hard-core Guitar Hero competitor in real life — pleaded with Savage to let Serena win.
Diversity rocks: When asked about the lack of gay characters on the show (tee-hee), Chrismukkah-lovin' Schwartz pointed out that the question he's asked most is, "Where are the Jews?"
No he didn't: Meester lamented that the best part of Serena and Blair's wardrobe is also the part viewers rarely get to see: their shoes. That prompted this hilariously off-color remark from Penn Badgley: "So, we should be lifting more legs then?" Some jokes are so wrong they're right. That was one of those jokes.
Gossip Girl Spoiler alert: Schwartz and Savage teased that this season's final five episodes will build toward a wedding — but not necessarily the one we're expecting (i.e. Lily and Bart).
Not gonna happen: On whether or not narrator Kristen Bell will ever turn up in the flesh as Gossip Girl, Savage reminded everyone that "she's not who Gossip Girl is. Gossip Girl is a state of mind." Can't we see her anyway?! Please?!